Monday, November 5, 2007

Velouté de butternut aux épices

* UPDATED - now with recipe! *

Last Thursday was All Saints' Day, a holiday here in France, so I had a quiet day at home with my boy. Halloween came and went this year and I hardly even noticed, which is unlike me. I usually love to take in the decorations and even attend a party or two, but that just wasn't in the cards this time around... I didn't hear from a friend of mine who usually holds an annual Halloween fête, so perhaps this year something came up -- last year I had a good time dressing up as a chat noir, but unfortunately I didn't yet have a camera so I wasn't even able to immortalize the hilarious moment. I had gone all-out with the makeup, so the look was pretty convincing. A friend of mine did take a photo, but then I never got to see it... Oh well! I sometimes miss the Halloween fun from back home in the States, and although in recent years the French have gotten more into the holiday, it's true that it just isn't quite the same. Granted, there's a lot of commercialism in the holiday itself, particularly in the U.S., but it's still a great opportunity for kids to have a blast dressing in costume. When I used to work in children's books I helped out with organizing a big annual Halloween party, and although I was always stressed about my own costume, I loved seeing the wee ones dressed to the nines, wearing face makeup and enjoying the candy.

Thursday afternoon I took my time preparing a wonderful new recipe (I tend to be very long in the kitchen anyway -- my boy always jokes that we don't eat before midnight some nights, which is only a slight exaggeration!), a spicy butternut squash soup that was rich, creamy and delicious. I have to credit French Saveurs magazine for this little gem, and I'll be sure to include the recipe here later today, once I get my hands on it again. This time around I also had a little helper, because a friend of my boy's came over with his son and he joined me in the kitchen. He watched me making my way around the tiny space, curiosity piqued, and asked all kinds of questions. When I opened up the squash and started cutting it into cubes, he seemed fascinated -- so I asked him if he'd like to help out a bit. "Why don't you start by scraping out all those seeds?" He willingly obliged, and concentrated on pulling out every last one of the seeds with his fingers and putting them in a small bowl. We toasted the seeds in a small pan with some salt, and after cooking down the squash in a mix of chicken stock and coconut milk, we puréeed the soup in a blender, added in the toasted squash seeds, some poitrine fumée, which is basically the French version of bacon, and some fresh cilantro leaves. Valentin, my kitchen aide, rinsed the cilantro while standing on a stool over the sink, as you can see in the photo, and pulled the leaves off the stems. He did this so carefully, and I was blown away by how meticulous he was about everything. When we served the soup at the end, he was thrilled by the result -- even if the curry and the ginger made it a bit spicy! "Ca pique, mais c'est pas grave !" He didn't seem to mind too much, and ate half a bowl on his own, adding in some extra seeds from time to time. The seeds reminded me of the pumpkin seeds my grandmother would roast in the oven when I was a little girl.

I had such a good time making this soup with Valentin, I couldn't resist starting over again on Sunday with a new batch. I had bought two butternut squash at the market last week, so I had enough to make two rounds. Unfortunately, for some reason the second squash had barely any seeds! Good thing I didn't use that one to make the soup with Valentin... Here he is, super-proud of his efforts. He's quite the little cook! Wish I had started this young...

Velouté de butternut aux épices
(Spicy Butternut Squash Soup)
"Délicieusement onctueux !"

1 medium-sized butternut squash
(the recipe doesn't specify weight, but I think that the average-sized squash would do -- the soup only serves about four small bowls, and it is very rich)
1 tablespoon of curry powder (more or less -- this is actually a lot of curry powder, so the second time around I only used 1/2 tablespoon -- depends on how spicy you like it!)
1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder, or 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
50 cl of chicken stock
1 small onion
10 cl of coconut milk or light cream (crème de fleurette) (again, depending on how creamy and rich you like it)
a few fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons of grilled or toasted squash seeds
4 slices of poitrine fumée, or bacon
30 g of butter
Salt (which I actually found unnecessary with the chicken stock and the bacon slices)

Peel the butternut squash and cut it into small cubes. [Also, reserve the seeds inside the squash -- you can toast these later in a small pan, with some salt if you like.] Peel and finely chop the onion. Warm up the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven and cook the onion on light heat for about 3 minutes, until it is transparent or a bit soft. Add in the ginger and curry powder and cook for another minute or so, while stirring. Add in the butternut cubes and cook them for about two minutes, again while stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour in the chicken stock and the coconut milk or cream. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer for 20 minutes (until the squash cubes are nice and tender).

While the soup was simmering, I dry-roasted the squash seeds in a pan and then did the same with the slices of poitrine fumée until they were nice and toasty-brown and a bit crunchy.

Mix the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender (I know a regular blender is more high-maintenance, but I find it gives me better results, and the texture of the soup is creamier), add some salt if necessary. You can then serve the soup with a slice of the bacon in each bowl, or you can slice up the bacon into tiny pieces. Sprinkle on a few cilantro leaves and some toasted squash seeds, and voilà -- creamy, spicy butternut goodness!

* I found this recipe in French Saveurs magazine, november 2007.


jchevais said...


Penny said...

Looks and sounds delicious! I'd love to read the recipe - butternuts are my favourites :)

Poppy Fields said...

I am off to make butternut risotto right now. Your dish looks delicious!

simon said...

is there anything better tha french food? I doubt it :o)

Linda said...

What a cute little helper. I let my husband's grandkids help me make brownies and they acted like it was so fascinating. Of course, they got to lick the bowl afterwards, darn it.

La Page Française said...

I looooove butternut squash! And how cute is your little helper. Sounds like a very fun time.

you know who said...

might be interesting for you:

joy suzanne said...

Oh MAN that looks good.

The Late Bloomer said...

This recipe was a definite winner -- I only wish I could find butternut squash more often at the market! I have a feeling it won't last much longer... And I'm glad I got two squash the first time around, although the second one I used hardly had any seeds -- it was kinda sad! (so no crunchy seeds to add into the soup at the end)

On a sidenote, any who are interested and enjoy French cooking magazines, I was seriously THRILLED with the new November issue of Saveurs -- there are so many recipes in it that I want to try, I plan on getting it pretty dog-eared over the coming months. For example, I can't wait to try the tea gourmandises, which include a new recipe for praline financiers, mango-lemon muffins, cannelés and heart-shaped shortbread cookies... I already baked the lemon-poppyseed cake, included on two pages on poppy seeds in general. There's a spread on soups, a few pages on oatmeal (I'm always looking for creative ways to use my box of oatmeal...) and even two pages on (French versions of) Thanksgiving. It's well worth the cover price! (for once, because I'm so often disappointed by how little I use cooking magazines...)

Hope you all enjoy!

Wendz said...

I love butternut squash and it was so hard to get hold of it in Franche Comte...a real luxury. I make a very similar soup to that as well...and sometimes add some chopped apple for a bit of extra sweetness. never tried toasting the squash seeds though..what a great idea!

Leah said...

Well done, I'm very impressed. Sounds yummy! and thanks for the recipe:)

Amy H said...

I haven't seen any butternut squash here yet in the Loire, but as soon as I do I'm going to buy some and try your recipe! (And will pick up a copy of Saveurs as well.)

Mary Alice said...

I will try this. I love coconut milk. My usual recipe for butternut squash soup is made a little different (apples and chicken stock) and this one sounds like it would be a nice change.

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